Fungi perform a critical role in the ecosystem which is often overlooked—that of recyclers. Even though they are necessary to life as we know it, they are shockingly underappreciated. Thus far, about 120,000 species of fungi have been identified—that’s a drop in the bucket of the estimated 2-4 million extant species. To help introduce people to Kingdom Fungi, I will discuss the vital services they perform for us (the good), examples of when and why they cause us problems (the bad), and some of the most charismatic members (the fascinating) of the fungal kingdom.
Ashlee McCaskill received a B.S. in Botany from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in Plant Molecular Biology from Cornell University. While her academic training is in the plant sciences, she is an avid fungal enthusiast and teaches mycology at the University of North Georgia.